I can probably count on one hand what I consider “traumatic experiences” from my childhood. I come from a comfortable upbringing in Juneau, Alaska. The only place in town I could ever picture myself getting jumped was the skate park, and I didn’t even turn up there much.
But I still had a couple traumatic events as a teenager. One of which involved nearly having my brand-new mountain bike stolen out from under me during my of the summer breaks in high school.
I was a couple blocks north of the airport, near the outskirts of the Mendenhall Valley, as I unsuspectingly rode my two shiny wheels down an empty residential area. Then I noticed a kid started following me on his own bike. He was with a gang of two or three others, all of which looked like they were up to no good.
A knot began to tighten in my stomach.
“Wanna switch bikes for a quick ride?” he asked.
He was on a BMX bike that had seen better days, and I was riding a mountain bike that had not. What the heck was he thinking? Who the heck did he think I was?
Fortunately, I had enough street sense to turn down the offer and burn rubber back home, my adrenaline racing faster than Jeff Gordon in Daytona in February. I was safe, and so was my $600 aluminum birthday present.
As I reflect back on this incident, already eight years past, I think of how this single event could have led to a divorce between biking and myself — which would be really sad because biking rocks. For three summers I worked as a bicycle guide for cruise line visitors. For six or more summers I have used biking as my preferred method of transportation in my hometown.
But as I blissfully discovered last weekend, one doesn’t have to keep the old two-wheeler chained up until summer to move around, even in Alaska. The last few weeks of steady sunshine in Anchorage has gradually warmed the temperatures, melting the ice away from sidewalks and bike paths.
My friend Stephen and I made it all the way out to Earthquake Park from campus on Saturday on bikes. The going was certainly dirty — most of the sidewalks were cased in grime — but the weather and scenery made it a fun aerobic outing.
Biking is not only a flexible way of getting around — it is a great way to keep from getting spring fever. Just don’t forget a helmet!